“Rubbish” isn’t a word that gets used much in the United States or Canada. We have “trash” and “garbage” instead. So what’s the difference between “trash” and “garbage”? I always think of garbage as food, things like bones, orange peels, coffee grounds, stuff that molded in the refrigerator that we find when we’re playing “What Was This?” Also things like cat litter, cat food cans, bags, and boxes. Trash is anything else, like lawn clippings, stuff you clean out of the basement or garage, things like that.
Back in the days of the old Yellow Pages, they would have a section on city, county, and state services, and one of the services was “rubbish removal.” I got the impression that this was for big things, like furniture. Other than that, we rarely used the term. And “refuse”? I guess it could encompass all three of these.
“Refuse” is one of those words that can be used as a noun or a verb. As a noun, you pronounce is “REFuse,” as in “Take out all this refuse.” As a verb, you pronounce it “reFUSE,” as in “I refuse to take out the refuse.” That’s confusing…
My wife told me, “Take out the garbage.” I said, “I already took out the garbage.” She said, “Then go out and keep an eye on it.” – Rodney Dangerfield
from The Sound of One Hand Typing